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Bird flu may already have reached Slovakia

The state veterinary institute in Zvolen has said it suspects that the Avian Influenza virus killed two birds brought to the institute for examination. The institute is expected to reveal the final results of testing on February 24.

State authorities have emphasized that it is not certain that the H5N1 virus has reached Slovakia.

Two samples have been taken for testing, the first from a duck found dead in Bratislava's Vlčie Hrdlo, near the Slovnaft oil refinery, while the second was from a dead falcon found near the Gabčikovo dam, reported the SME daily.

Slovak authorities have sent the samples to London and notified the European Commission of their suspicions. Slovakia does not have the sophisticated testing equipment needed to definitively confirm the presence of the virus.

The Slovak police are watching roads connecting Gabčíkovo with the rest of the country, as the transport of poultry and birds has been banned.

Agriculture Minister Zsolt Simon said he believed that bird flu would remain a veterinary problem in Slovakia. He said that in Europe so far, avian flu has not been transmitted from birds to people, as it has in east Asia.

International health authorities have confirmed 170 cases of bird flu transmission to humans since 2003, resulting in 92 deaths.

However, the unprecedented spread of bird flu to 14 more countries in the past three weeks is giving the virus many more chances to mutate into a global outbreak.

Fourteen countries, including India, Nigeria, Egypt, France and Austria, have reported their first cases of birds infected with the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu since the beginning of February.

Compiled by Beata Balogová from press reports
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